I had heard a lot about Durbuy ever since I moved to Belgium. One is for Durbuy being the smallest city in the world, another for Chateau de Petit Somme which houses the Hindu temple of Iskcon and another for the best adventure park in Belgium - Adventure Valley Durbuy. With multitudes of reasons, I really had to visit Durbuy and here’s what I managed in my 3 days Durbuy itinerary.
TOP 5 THINGS TO DO IN DURBUY
ADVENTURE VALLEY DURBUY
As I mentioned, Adventure Valley Durbuy is one of the major attractions in Durbuy that I wanted to experience and more so, after I came to know that the longest zipline in Benelux is here.
Adventure Valley Durbuy is situated in multiple premises all over Durbuy and Barvaux. The main premise is in Durbuy. There is a touristic train and shuttle bus, but since we had already hired bikes, we chose to ride there. There are 2 types of passes in the main premises - Adventure Pass & Fly Pass. There are 3 awesome rides with the Fly Pass (Zipline, Free fall and Big Air) and rest all are under Adventure pass. Kids have to be atleast 110cm tall to participate, so there wasn’t much for my tiny toddler to do. The most awesome thing for taller kids is the Tree Top Adventure area. This is a series of fantastic obstacle courses, of various skill-set & difficulty. While you’re here don’t miss the 3D Labyrinth, which also includes a portion of Sky-Walk. I really need to re-visit this place as soon as my girl is tall enough to experience it all. A fun thing, especially for teenagers, is the Bike Parc.
Another premise of Durbuy Adventure Park is the Challenge Park which specializes on Tree-Top Adventures. The Escape Room is located in yet another premise and it is super-fun especially if you’re with your group of friends or colleagues. Apart from these, it is also possible to hire Kayak in Adventure Valley Durbuy and go kayaking on river Ourthe.
Durbuy Adventure Valley location: Rue Rome 1, 6940 Durbuy
TOP TIP: When you’re visiting Adventure Valley, do consider visiting Chateau de Petit Somme located very closeby. It is a historic chateau which was used as a refuge during world wars and currently houses the Radhadhesh - the Iskcon Hindu temple.
Being a UNESCO buff, the most important stops for me in Durbuy were its Geological curiosities – the Durbuy Anticlines! Being in the heart of La Calestienne region, Durbuy comes under the UNESCO Geopark Famenne Ardennes. The specialty here is that some rocks are soft leading to unusual formations. One such formation is where the soft rocks (limestone in this case) start ‘climbing’ over the immovable hard rocks (granite etc) giving rise to slanted rocks and the best ones that are bent over creating curved rock formations, called Anticlines! Anticlines take millions of years to form. Durbuy Anticline is over 300 million years old, which is why, it is possible to see fascinating things like underwater fossils like corals, on it! There are 2 anticlines in Durbuy with the major one being in a pool of water and not accessible up close, the smaller one is just beneath the Castle and can be observed in close quarters.
Durbuy Anticline location: Chemin Touristique, 6940 Durbuy
Durbuy mini-Anticline location: Just beneath the Chateau, facing the river Ourthe, in the direction of Hotel & Restaurant Le Sanglier. On Google Maps
EXPLORE VIEILLE VILLE
The Vieille Ville or the Old Town of Durbuy has an area of just 2 hectares and was declared a city by King John of Bohemia to improve its fortifications, which is exactly why, once upon a time, Durbuy was the smallest city in the world. Today the entire city is just 7 streets but that is entirely adorable, and has a certain old-world charm to it. Walking through these cobbled streets, especially early in the morning, was one of my favourite things to do when I visited Durbuy. It is hard to get a bad photograph on these streets! A self-guided walking tour is a must-thing to do. I got the map of the Vielle Ville from the tourism office and my first stop was the Convent of Recollectine nuns built in 1663 CE. Another spot not to be missed is Rue Daufresne de la Chevalerie. This charming, instagrammable street is the oldest street of Durbuy which was in fact laid with the stones of river Ourthe! Then there is ofcourse the Durbuy Castle which, though is a private property, it serves as a perfect backdrop for all the street photography in Durbuy. After the walk, it would be a good idea to sit in front of Durbuy Anticlinal sipping some Durboyse beer!
Durbuy Vieille Walking Map: Can be bought at the Durbuy Tourism office
TOPIARY PARK & MINI-GOLF
One of the top things to do in Durbuy is to admire the unusual sculptures in the Topiary Park. Seriously, how often have you seen a bush sculpted in the shape of sunbathing Pamela Anderson??? It is every child’s delight to spot bush sculptures of squirrels, peacocks, rabbits & even Manneken Pis!
Across the street from here, just in front of the Durbuy Anticline, is the 18-hole mini-golf course. It is a rather picturesque spot to just relax and golf. Thanks to the region and river Ourthe, the mini-golf course has so many, small water-ways. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times, the golf balls have fallen & gotten lost, esp. when kids play minigolf! Yes, this is a family spot and kids can try their hand in golfing too. The best time to play is perhaps at night, when the whole course is lit-up!
Durbuy Topiary Park location: Rue de la Haie Himbe 1, 6940 Durbuy
Durbuy Mini-Golf location: Place du grand anticlinal, 6940, Chemin Touristique, 6940 Durbuy
TOP TIP: Topiary Park ticket gives you discount in many places in this region including Mini Golf, Radhadesh guided tour, Hotton Caves, La Maison des Megalithes etc.
STREET ART & SCULPTURES
One of the best free things to do in Durbuy is to explore its fascinating street-art. One aspect of the public art installations is of course, river Ourthe, where the art was inspired by waterworks. Another aspect is the biennial International Symposium of Monumental Stone Sculptures that Durbuy hosts. There are so many modern sculptures dotted all over the city which is quite unusual for a city this size!
In front of the anticline are the dancing fountains and beside it is the spinning wheels water-works. As an outcome of the various symposia over the years, there are so many granite & other stone sculptures incl. Place Hanyu near the anticline which depicts the Japanese town of Hanyu – Durbuy’s twin town (sister city).
© WBT - Chippy
Durbuy Sculptures Walking Map: Can be bought at the Durbuy Tourism office
TOP TIP: When you plan your visit to Durbuy, you could choose to dates when the giant labyrinth in Barvaux is open. It is a maze of corn plantation that’s created every year and open to public from July to October
DAY TRIPS FROM DURBUY
I have a fascination towards pre-historic sites and peaceful villages and Wéris checks both the boxes. Wéris is one of the ‘Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonie’ and it is an important place to see pre-historic sites in Belgium. Wéris is located 10km from Durbuy and we visited with our hired e-bikes.
Wéris is absolutely charming with its old half-timbered houses and a Romanesque church built in 11th C. These old buildings have been built, not with bricks, but with local stones! The entire village is absolutely picturesque and is every photographer’s delight.
Wéris is also the home to La Maison des Megalithes, a museum that gives an insight into the pre-historical, geological, geographical nature of the region. This is a good point to start exploring the prehistoric sites in and around Wéris. The most important of it all is the Dolmen of Wéris.
Dolmens are megalithic tombs which look like tiny houses made of large, flat blocks of rocks! There is another Dolmen in Oppagne, several stand-alone rocks called Menhirs, excavated rocks like Devil’s Bed (Le lit du Diable) etc. It was pretty easy for us to explore it all with an e-bike which is perhaps the best way to go about it. Most of the streets where these pre-historic sites of Wallonia are located, aren’t really accessible by car. If you’re used to long-distance hiking, you could walk and cover it all.
La Maison des Megalithes location : Place Arsène Soreil 7, 6940 Wéris
- This route touches Wéris, Ny and Hotton. It is very much possible to do this 23km route in one day. A few of the prehistoric sites (especially to the north of Wéris) have been skipped in this route. Another idea would be to separate the 2 and visit Weris & nearby sites one one day and visit Ny village, and Hotton for its caves & hiking on another day, which is what we did!
- TOP TIP: It is possible to hire e-bikes at Durbuy Tourism office. The prices begin at €20 for half a day. Pre-booking would be necessary, esp., on weekends & holidays.
NY & HOTTON
Like Wéris, Ny is also a ‘Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonie’ and it is all the more charming and quiet when compared to Wéris. The whole village is between 2 streams of river Ourthe, so one of the attractions of Ny is that it is filled with so many water fountains. We biked around river Ny as a quick stop on our way to Hotton.
Hotton has quite a few things to do. My first stop in Hotton was the Hotton Caves. It is one of the most beautiful caves in Belgium that is has the nickname Caves of 1001 nights. The formations of stalactites and stalagmites and the chambers underground are so, so picturesque. It is in 2 levels underground and a total of 580 steps. Though that sounded like a lot, it is not in one stretch, so it wasn’t really tiring for me, even though I was carrying my toddler in a babycarrier!
Another important Hotton attraction is Rocks of Reneissart. This is also a part of the unique Geological formations of the UNESCO Geopark Famenne Ardennes region. This almost perfectly vertical face of rock is a preferred destination for rock-climbers. I’m not really a rock-climber, and if you’re like me too, there are many hiking routes to reach atop the Rocks of Reneissart. There is, a part of that rock, that looks like an elephant’s face which quite amusingly, neither did I read in any blog, website or guidebooks nor did I notice it myself, but my toddler got so excited and shouted ‘Mommy, that looks like an elephant’ and yeah, I did see it!
In Hotton is also the Riveo, a river-interpretation centre that talks about rivers in this region in all its aspects – geology, geography, ecology, flora & fauna and more
Hotton Caves location: Chemin du Spéléo-Club 1, 6990 Hotton
Riveo Centre location: Rue Haute 4, 6990 Hotton
TOP TIP: The lighting inside the caves is spectacular. So make sure your camera has the right night-mode/dark-mode settings to capture it well. If you’re with young children, take a baby carrier along. There are 580 steps totally in the caves which might make kids a bit tired. Of course, this is not wheelchair/stroller friendly because of these steps.
- 1 day in Durbuy: Adventure Valley Durbuy and walking tour of Durbuy Vieille Ville including Geological curiosities.
- 2 days in Durbuy:
- Day 1 - Adventure Valley Durbuy (including Kayaking) and Chateau de Petite Somme
- Day 2 - Walking tour of Durbuy Vieille Ville incl. Geological curiosities, Mini Golf & Topiary Park and Biking on the Les Megalithes route
- 3 days in Durbuy:
- Day 1 - Adventure Valley Durbuy (including Kayaking) and Chateau de Petite Somme
- Day 2 - Walking tour of Durbuy Vieille Ville incl. Mini Golf & Topiary Park and biking to Weris & other Megalithic sites
- Day 3 - Biking to Ny & Hotton (or) Biking to Erezee for Tramway Touristique de l'Aisne
WHAT TO EAT IN DURBUY
Belgium is the land of a gazillion varieties of beers. When you’re in Durbuy, try Durboyse beer!
Another unique thing you have to try in Durbuy is the trout. Have you ever tried nettles? This Truite aux orties is a dish made of trout, caught fresh in river Ourthe prepared with nettles! It is a very local, authentic dish, that’s often prepared by people in their homes is a must-try in one of the local restaurants.
When walking through the streets of Durbuy Vieille Ville, don’t miss to grab a couple of jams, preserves & vinegars from Confiturerie Saint Amour.
When you’re biking through the megalithic sites to the north of Wéris, you could also stop by at Ozo Goat Farm for some fresh farm produce. Also to pet those adorable goats, more so, if you have kids with you!
HOW TO REACH DURBUY
Durbuy is located close to Marche-en-Famenne and is about 125km from Brussels via Ottignies, Namur & Ciney.
Durbuy does not have a railway station. The nearest railway station to Durbuy is Barvaux, located about 4km away. Barvaux is connected by train from both Marloie and Liege which have direct trains from Brussels. A good idea would be to hire taxi or bikes at Barvaux. There is the LeTEC route 11 ProxiBus service (whose frequency isn’t much. Check the LeTEC schedule before your arrival) and the on-demand LeTEC service called FlexiTEC (which has to be booked atleast 24hrs in advance) that connects Barvaux to Durbuy and many other villages in the region.
WHERE TO STAY IN DURBUY
Durbuy is filled with many accommodations of many styles and budgets.
The most adventurous accommodation in Durbuy is of course camping. There are several camping sites to park your RV or pitch your tent at Barvaux-sur-Ourthe. For a bit more style, Glamping in the Durbuy Adventure Valley is a great option.
For absolute luxury, the recently launched, 5-star rated, Hotel Sanglier is the perfect choice, complete with its golf package, wellness package, gastronomic package and more.
There are several charming historic hotels all over Durbuy like Hotel Au Vieux, Hotel le Clos de Recolletes, Hotel Saint-Amour, Hotel Victoria etc.
About the Author: Bhushavali is an Indian travel blogger who blogs at https://travel.bhushavali.com/. She is currently living in Belgium. Her background in art-history gives her the interest and insight to explore the historic & heritage sites in Belgium. Her primary interest is UNESCO Sites and she has visited all 13 Belgian UNESCO World Heritage Sites & the UNESCO Global Geopark as well.